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Better Nursing Communication Solutions, More Efficient Nurses

We all want to be efficient at our jobs. As a nurse, greater efficiency means you can spend more time with your patients. Unfortunately, with responsibility for many patients and a cacophony of alerts, alarms, and messages related to their care, efficiency sometimes seems difficult to achieve without the right tools. And the more walking back and forth among rooms and calling around to various departments you do, the less time you have for meaningful interaction.

Prioritize Activity With Mobile Alerts

What nurses need is a way to respond remotely to patient calls, quickly determine whether an alert is critical or minor, and find out which physician is on call, fast. You also require tools that can help you identify whether the provider you need to connect with prefers to receive a text message or a phone call. Most importantly, you need to be able to receive messages from other providers, patients, and even patient monitoring devices on your mobile device, letting you quickly assess a situation and respond to it appropriately. Sometimes this means dropping everything and calling a code or redirecting the request to an aide.

Today’s healthcare environment calls for tools that can help nurses connect with other providers, respond appropriately to patient requests, and ensure no patient in distress goes unnoticed. Learn more about solutions in each of these areas:

  • Solve the nurse call challenge: You need to receive detailed information on your mobile device so that you can respond to patients quickly and effectively. The right technology can also recognize those alerts that don’t need your attention and route them elsewhere so that you aren’t interrupted.
  • Minimize alarm fatigue: Avoiding unnecessary alerts and messages can help you respond quickly to the patients who need you most.
  • Receive patient monitoring alerts quickly: When you can get information delivered to your mobile device directly from patient monitoring devices such as heart monitors and respirators, you can take the necessary action right away.
  • Coordinate communications effectively: Quickly reach the right people on your team when you need them.
  • Leverage bring your own device (BYOD): Securely access the information you need and communicate with your team on your preferred device.

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The Spok Care Connect Story

Solve the Nurse Call Challenge

As a nurse, anything that prevents you from responding to a patient in need is a problem that needs attention. Patients must be able to reach you quickly when they have a question or need help, and it’s important for you to receive those messages right away. You should also have a method of redirecting some requests (like bathroom assistance or asking for water) to other staffers so you can concentrate on critical tasks. Nurse call information should contain enough clinical context so that, for example, if a particular patient is a fall risk, it can be noted in the nurse call so that their bathroom requests can be prioritized.

Speed Response to Patient Needs

Unlike the traditional nurse call process that delays response by routing calls to a central console, clinical alerting solutions can deliver nurse call alerts directly to you on your mobile device. You can receive patient calls on a smartphone, tablet, voice badge, or Wi-Fi phone and call the patient with the press of a button or a tap on the screen. This lets you quickly determine the nature of the request and plan your course of action. It also gives your patient a faster response, which can lead to higher satisfaction scores.

Examples of Improved Nurse Call Processes

Let’s say one of your patients is asthmatic. Feeling short of breath, he calls for you using the nurse call handset at his bedside. You receive the message on your smartphone, hit the call-back number embedded in the message, and are connected with the patient’s pillow speaker. In speaking with the patient, you realize a nebulizer treatment is needed. You use your smartphone to securely text the patient’s physician, she enters orders for the treatment, and you are able to administer it within a few minutes.

Now imagine you are at a patient bedside changing a patient’s bandage. A patient calls for you, but you cannot stop what you’re doing to answer. If you fail to respond in a pre-determined amount of time, intelligent alerting will automatically forward that call to the next-available nurse.

Clinical alerting provides a direct connection to your patients and the rest of the care team. Benefits of clinical alerting for nurses include:

    • Improved efficiency, letting you respond quickly to urgent patient needs while directing some requests to nurses’ aides or other staff
    • A reduction in the number of steps you take each day by giving you detailed information about each situation
    • The ability to reduce overhead paging with discreet communications via mobile devices, leading to a quieter healing environment
    • Improved patient satisfaction scores as many HCAHPS questions ask about communications

As the role of nurses evolves, the systems you use must evolve as well. Spok can deliver nurse call alerts directly to your mobile device and make responding simple, which helps drive that evolution forward and makes a tough job just a little bit easier.​

Minimize Alarm Fatigue

What Is Alarm Fatigue?

As a nurse, you rely on alerts to inform you of patient needs—everything from emergencies, to important-but-non-life-threatening issues, to requests that can wait for a quieter moment.

But alerts are highly problematic. False positives from loose leads, redundant alerts from poorly set thresholds, and notifications for patients under someone else’s care are just the beginning. Not only are alerts often distracting and difficult to decipher, but they can also be downright dangerous if excessive alarms cause you and your colleagues to become desensitized.

Up to 350 Alarms Per Bed, Per Day

With up to 350 alarm conditions per day per bed in U.S. hospitals (according to a Johns Hopkins Hospital study)—at least 85 percent of which are not actionable—nurses are understandably frustrated with current systems and ready for a smarter solution that helps them prioritize calls. In addition to setting appropriate monitoring device thresholds for alarm triggers, and procedures such as daily lead changes, a clinical alerting solution can help ease the frustration, disruption, and desensitization caused by too many false alarms.

Improve Alert Systems

There are several steps hospitals can take to improve their alert systems, bringing them closer in line with nurses needs.

  1. Implement threshold best practices. Setting thresholds to proper levels from the beginning immediately reduces the number of unnecessary alarms sent to nurses. Every clinician who sets up a patient monitor should have a guideline on how to set thresholds based on the patient’s condition and other factors (e.g., pediatric patient levels vs. adult, or medical surgical floors vs. intensive care).
  2. Create filters to reduce the number of false positives and nuisance alarms. Make sure that each monitoring device is configured to avoid unnecessary alerts from things like loose leads, low batteries, and improper placement of electrodes. While these items need attention, they are not immediate emergencies.
  3. Ensure all actionable alarms are quickly delivered to the appropriate provider. Healthcare-specific clinical alerting solutions are designed to send detailed information about an alert directly to a caregiver’s device, such as a Wi-Fi phone, smartphone or pager, not overhead or to a nursing station. Each alert level has its own sound, letting nurses know just by listening whether the call is urgent (V-fib) or not (ice-chip request). Caregivers receiving the message can accept it, escalate it to another caregiver, or call the patient’s room or pillow speaker. Individual departments can set an appropriate route for each type of alarm based on clinician procedures, specific workflows, and staffing.​

Receive Patient Monitoring Alerts Quickly

Improve Nurse Response to Changes in Vitals

If a patient is in the first stages of distress, you want to know about it right away. With today’s clinical alerting solutions, that information can come directly to your mobile device from a variety of monitors, reducing the time it takes for you to respond.

Connect to a Wide Array of Monitoring Systems

The key to improving response times is connecting the diverse array of patient monitoring systems to multiple communication devices. Technology can facilitate communication to any type of mobile device (smartphone, Wi-Fi phone, voice badge, tablet, or pager) from almost any monitor, including:

  • Heart monitors
  • Ventilators
  • Infusion pumps
  • Pulse oximeters
  • Many others

The benefits of this direct connection among nurses and monitors include:

  1. Faster response times, helping reduce the chance of a sentinel event
  2. Improved staff efficiency (nurses can forward alerts to another staff member when they are unable to respond themselves)
  3. Higher patient satisfaction scores
  4. Quieter patient floors
  5. Better preparation—detailed alerts help nurses know when they need to call additional staff and/or pick up supplies en route to the patient’s room

Fall Prevention With Improved Alerting

In an effort to reduce patient falls, some beds are programmed to sense weight changes and sound an alarm if an unsteady patient attempts to get up without help. Clinical alerting software can send that alert to a group of unit staff on their mobile devices simultaneously. If you receive a bed alarm notification and are able to help, you would head for the patient’s room. En route, you could also use the call-back button embedded in the alert to immediately connect with the patient’s pillow speaker and instruct him or her to sit and wait for you, preventing a potential fall.

Clinical alerting can help to make your job easier by routing patient alerts from monitors directly to your mobile device, and making them easy to respond to or delegate. Better information on patient status not only helps you improve outcomes while lowering costs, but it also reduces unnecessary steps, and most importantly, lets you provide a higher quality of care.

Coordinate Communications Effectively

Information With Clinical Alerting

Connect Islands of Information With Clinical Alerting

Hospital communications used to be simpler—operators were available to connect clinicians or page someone, binders held on-call schedules, and patient information was recorded in paper charts. Of course, those simple systems often proved cumbersome and frustrating.

Today, hospital communications are significantly more complex. But with enterprise-wide tools, clinicians can get in touch faster and with greater efficiency.

The key is being able to connect the various islands of information (patient monitors, nurse call systems, the employee directory, patient records, etc.) to a hub that prioritizes alerts and notifications and sends them to clinicians or staffers on their preferred devices, escalating as necessary.

Respond to Alerts by Priority

It’s important to manage the flow of information, especially for nurses with multiple patients. Being able to quickly sign in at the start of your shift and only receive notifications about the patients under your care will save time, both initially and throughout the next 12 hours. Those alerts about patients can come directly to your mobile device, and rather than racing to the room to assess a situation, you can call the patient’s pillow speaker to talk, escalate the call to an alternate provider if you are unavailable, or route the call to another staff member (e.g., forward a bathroom request to the nursing assistant). The notification hub can be configured for your organization’s priority levels so that the highest alert levels are always sent first.

Managing a Telemetry Alert

Example of Managing a Telemetry Alert

An actionable alert for room 203 sounds in the telemetry room. With the push of a button, the telemetry tech forwards the v-fib alarm to you, the patient’s nurse. You receive the alarm on your mobile device, accept it, immediately triage the patient, and launch a code.

This type of system intelligence can also be used to help nurses find other nurses and physicians. By bringing together the staff directory, web-based on-call schedules, and physician-specific information about device preferences, the system can help you find a particular doctor, the specialist on call, or the person next in line to assist.

The Value of Enterprise Communications for Nurses

With an enterprise communications infrastructure, islands of information become connected chains of data. Instead of chaos from numerous monitor alarms, patient calls, and requests from physicians, you get the information you need when you need it, and the ability to quickly and easily reach out to others and ensure the best care for your patients.

Leverage Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

Easy, Secure Communication in BYOD Environments

Many nurses want to use their own devices at work, but BYOD policies can be difficult for healthcare organizations to manage. It’s not easy to sort out which devices IT will support, what systems clinicians and others will have mobile access to, who will pay for data costs, and how devices will be made secure.

The Prevalence of BYOD Programs

Gartner predicts that 90 percent of organizations will support some form of BYOD by 2017 and that by 2018 there will be twice as many employee-owned devices in the workplace as enterprise-owned devices. While this trend may prove true for the large majority of organizations, BYOD programs in healthcare are on the decline, most likely because of data security risks. However, as of July 2016, nearly 60 percent of hospitals participating in a surveysaid they support BYOD in some form, and 50 percent of those said nursing staff are included in the program. Allowing nurses to use their own devices helps with user adoption of new technology and can help cut costs related to mobile communications. However, careful planning is necessary to protect those cost savings and maintain the integrity and security of the information being shared.

Effective Workflows: The Key to a Nurse’s Success

As important as security is for hospitals implementing BYOD, from a nurse’s perspective, workflow is the key to success. Your mobile device, regardless of whether it was supplied by the hospital or by you, must allow you to care for and support your patients effectively and seamlessly. This includes needing to:

  • Access and edit patient records (securely and in real time)
  • Communicate with other HL7-enabled devices and systems
  • Receive and escalate patient requests and calls for assistance
  • Integrate with clinical alarm systems
  • Allow quick and easy collaboration with other providers in a traceable format

Spok supports all of these needs, for BYOD and hospital-issued devices, giving you and your fellow nurses flexibility to use the tools that are right for you and your facility. Spok solutions let users easily and securely connect to nurses, non-clinical staffers, patients, and physicians, including the physician on call and the next in line to assist—using whatever device is preferred. Incorporating every type of mobile device into a fully supported network with Spok provides the fast, seamless, secure communication required for excellent patient care in a hospital environment.​